The view from my couch

TNT Coverage of the Pennsylvania 500
by Vivian Simons
August 2, 2004

All in all, this was a very good and informative broadcast by TNT. Commercials seemed to be well placed and they continued to break away from commercial to show us what was happening in the race. TNT also limited the use of the pointers and the station promos while racing was being shown. I feel very positive about this broadcast and feel it was the best so far this season.

Note: For the purpose of this review I will be using the following abbreviations: C4C =Chase for the Championship, R2C=Race to the Chase, TTF=Through the Field and ITF=Inside the Field.

Discover Countdown to Green Pre-Race Show

Bill Weber opened by telling us the pre race show would be cut short because they wanted to start the race early due to the threat of weather in the area. Then the pit reporters gave us short interviews with several drivers. During this time they gave us a running ticker at the bottom of the screen to show us most of the starting line-up.

Then they went to the opening ceremonies and I must comment on the PA State Policeman doing the Star Spangled Banner. He was an excellent choice by the promoter as he performed it better than anyone else has so far this year including all the celebrities that other tracks have had. However, the announcers failed to explain the commemorative large flag we saw which seemed to have writing and other symbols on it. I think most at home fans would have liked to know what it was about.

For the Wally's World feature we saw Ray Evernham driving Wally's car with Jeremy Mayfield along as a passenger and they recalled Jeremy's win there and how he did the bump and run on Dale Earnhardt.

Then it was on to the booth for the beginning of the race. We then heard the starting line up through row 8 where they stopped for a radio conversation with Matt Kenseth. This is something I wish they would discontinue because I feel it shows a lack of respect for the drivers who do not get introduced to the television audience due to this radio conversation. Benny even mentioned that drivers did not all go to driver introduction many years ago so Nascar made a rule that if they missed intros then they had to go to back of field. So why can't the announcers bide by that rule also and introduce the whole field? They did continue finally from row 18 on back. Then we had the pit reporters update us on several drivers. This is a good feature as we hear about drivers that normally do not get a pre race interview.

The Race

It is so great to hear Allen say “We're Green” rather than those BBB words we have to endure part of the year. What a plus for these announcers! Right away Wally pointed out that a couple of drivers, one being Rusty Wallace did not get a good start and he explained how turn 2 could get a bit tricky. This was good information. Right after that, it was pointed out that pole sitter Casey Mears was being passed by quite a few drivers and offered up a graphic on him; then advised us that Sterling Marlin had a different sponsor paint scheme as he was next on the track. Great information since we would then be able to recognize his car and where he was on the track. Benny's virtual garage was next; explaining tight and Allen referenced understeer while Wally mentioned push. Commercial time and when they came back they recapped the first 10 positions for us. After that they told us about the Matt Kenseth incident in the garage and explained why he had to go to a back up car. They also told us Jr was going back in the pack and that several drivers had complained about lack of grip. Took another commercial break so they could do a TTF Feature when they came back. After commercial on lap 25 they started TTF and went through position 10 before going back to Allen who mentioned that Jr was in danger of going a lap down. Restarted with position 11 and got through position 19 before breaking away to show Jr going a lap down. After that Jr pitted, then Jeff Gordon pitted and it caused the whole field to follow suit by pitting also. While pit stops were going on Allen updated us on #77 who had been penalized for leaving pits with wrench in car. They also told us how Joe Nemecheck had trouble with jack in pits and lost the lead while pitting. During these green flag stops I noticed there were several drivers who were already out of race or off track but we weren't told why. At times the ticker can be a nuisance but it can also give us helpful updates. I am glad they put a darker background on it to make it easier to read. Along about this time they did the R2C promo and who would be in if race ended now. I have never liked the “If race ended now” scenario. It is not reality so to me it is just useless supposition and we could be better served if they concentrated on the race at hand instead of going over that information.

On lap 52, caution came out due to Scott Wimmer spinning and they told us who the lucky dog would be. Also told us Jr had decided to turn his car over to John Andretti during this caution. We were told that since Pocono is a big track they were in no danger of going another lap down while changing drivers if there were no mishaps. Back to green on lap 56. They mentioned possible trouble for car #12 and I noticed on the ticker that 2 more cars were off track but the announcers never mentioned them. At this time they started using some of their pointers but did not keep them up very long. We were told #42 got penalized due to loose tire on pit road and that #24 had some problems with the jack on the left rear. We were later told that the chain that helps hold the rear end up was broken on the car and that they needed a couple more pumps on the jack to get the car high enough to change the tire. This was great information as it explained why his pit stops the rest of the race were a bit longer than normal. Right after this the #48 pit crew intro feature was used and I think most fans appreciate this feature. We had the usual Cingular question which led into the transmission and engine problems that plague some drivers at Pocono. At this time Wally explained Rusty Wallace's bad start being due to the fact that his shift sequence was set wrong and he had to adjust to shifting in a different manner than normal. Again, good information to have. We were also told that Joe Nemecheck had lost some gears and was fading back.

They started a new TTF feature and went through position 10 and broke in briefly to advise us of a lead change and update us on Jr. Then continued through position only to break in and give us a #12 pit update. They then continued starting with position 13 and going through position 25. This is one of the best features that TNT/NBC has. As fans at home, we get to hear about many more drivers and I applaud them for this feature. At this time we were told #8 was being black-flagged because he was not keeping minimum speed on the track and showed us a replay of John hitting the wall. Went to commercial but came back early as a caution had come out due to Morgan Shepherd losing an engine. We also had a replay of Biffle brushing the wall for the second time. We continued to have the great pit stop coverage that we have gotten used to while watching NBC/TNT. Their pit coverage and TTF features really make me feel that they have the best pit reporters in Nascar. Something else I happened to notice at this time was the fact that we had not had very many pop up station promos and when we did, there was no noise. This was great. I began to feel that maybe our broadcast reviews are doing a little good. I also noticed at this time on the ticker that Bodine was out but no mention of him either. They did tell us #8 was still in garage. They then showed us #20 hitting a can on the track but no caution for debris due to this. After a commercial break, they came back on lap 97 and then had caution on lap 98 due to Michael Waltrip smoking and then being black-flagged. Debris on track. Pit coverage again was great. During this caution we saw a short clip of Edsel Ford visiting Yates Shop and then came back right after the restart of the race.

On lap 108 Tony Stewart got loose when Busch got the air off him and Tony went into wall and was hit by Kasey Kahne which in turn made them bring up the highlights of the Chicago incident. Tony spun into grass and was stuck and they also showed us the wrecker had gotten stuck trying to tow him out. During this caution they finally mentioned everyone who was in the garage and let us know Dale Jarrett and Andretti were back on the track. Also advised us a penalty had been assessed on #38 during the pit stop. Went green for a few laps, then commercial time again only to have a debris caution on lap 120. Back on lap 124 for the green flag restart and explanation on lead change due to drivers taking no tires, 2 tires or 4 tires. Newman was then black-flagged due to starting in front of leader rather than where he should have so he had to do a pass through of pit road as a penalty.

Lap 127 another caution due to a Jeff Burton spin and we received excellent replays of incident. During this caution we were treated to an ITF feature which is on drivers not running up front. This one featured Blaney, W. Burton, Spencer and Riggs. Another appreciated feature by home fans. Back for the green restart on lap 134. We had another new leader and they told us why. Then had an interview with Jeff Burton and gave us the lucky dog update. They then used the pointers again but only briefly. I feel they know they are not very popular with some fans so it seems they have limited the use of them the past few races and some of us appreciate that. Another now rare pop up promo with no sound and very quickly disappearing at this time. I think they are listening. Another commercial break at lap 139 with a promise to do another TTF when back. Back briefly to let us know #29 had gone to pits and Allen also told us he was now wearing a helmet skirt for fire safety since Jr's accident. Wally added that the Simpson Trailer was really busy with drivers and crews buying miscellaneous safety items such as underwear, etc. We also received a race recap on the ticker. Back to TTF of lap 148 and went through position 10, broke in to tell us 27 cars were on lead lap with 51 laps to go; then continued with TTF through position 20 when they broke in to tell us Blaney had gone to garage with transmission problems. Shortly after this, Ward Burton spins and the caution came out again. Some commercials but they came back to show us pit stops then back to commercial but not back in time to show us the green flag restart on lap 165.

After commercials between lap 170 and 172, they updated us on Mark Martin's season and told us he was now running second and gave us an intro to his pit crew. On lap 175 we had another caution due to Bobby Labonte being hit by Brian Vickers and going into the wall. During this caution, we had commercials and a couple of race recaps and pit recaps. Well placed information. Back for the green flag restart on lap 181 and they let us know that after all the problems, Ryan Newman was back on the lead lap and we were treated to another update on the R2C. On lap 192 Busch lost his transmission so another caution and Petty scraped the wall. When they restarted on lap 196 they let us know there were 22 cars on the lead lap and who had pitted during that caution.


First interview was with Chad Knaus, winner Jimmy Johnson's crew chief. Then with second and third place finishers, finally with Jimmy and after him, the 5th place finisher. They did not interview 4th place.

After showing the unofficial finishing order and the point standings, we had several quick shots of the day including the decorated flag which left a lot of us wondering about it.

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